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Children of the Raj is such a joy to read
CHILDREN OF THE RAJ. Publisher: Orion Books; Author: Vyvyen Brendon ; Price: £8.99.
Vyvyen Brendon's evocative, at times heart-tugging book, runs from the 18th century era of the East India Company, through the Afghan wars, the Indian mutiny and the more settled era of the Raj, culminating in the conflict leading to Britain's hurried exit in 1947.
Its subject is the young progeny of traders, soldiers, civil servants, missionaries, planters and engineers who worked there. Until the coming of air travel these children often only saw their parents every few years.
Then there were the children born of Anglo-Indian marriages and affairs. Sent back to Britain they were often reviled as darkies', a touch of the tar-brush'.
And then there were the children educated in India. Brendon reveals appalling stories of abuse at the hands of servants.
What frequently unites Brendon's wildly different subjects is their loneliness - drawing on letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews she portrays children who had to discipline themselves to adapt (often ingeniously) to unfamiliar cultures, far away from family and forced to spend term-time in boarding schools and holidays with unfamiliar families.
Vyvyen Brendon is a former head of history at St Mary's School, Cambridge.
This is her first general book. She is married to the historian Piers Brendon.
The New Statesmen described the book as a rich narrative out of memoirs, journals and oral testimonies' while the London Evening Standard said it was clearly a labour of love' and added that Brendon recounts the poignant stories of the British children born under the Raj."
The Literary Review said: "It is to Brendon's credit that so salutary a saga is yet a joy to read."